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Caithness Field Club

Caithness Field Club Bulletin

Possible Prehistoric Settlement uncovered in Northern Scotland (by Caithness Broch Project)
Caithness Broch Project (CBP) and the Orkney Research Centre (ORCA) for Archaeology made an exciting archaeological discovery in May; a possible prehistoric settlement. The site was revealed at Thusater Burn near Thurso in the north of Scotland, as part of a year-long series of community archaeology events, known as the ‘Caithness Broch Festival’, organized by the Caithness Broch Project.

Previous geophysical surveying of the site by Orkney Research Centre for Archaeology (ORCA) had indicated that there may be some hidden archaeological features. This proved to be correct when, under unusually sunny skies, and with help from over 40 volunteers, the team opened three trenches, over the course of 2 days. All trenches provided evidence of rubble and stony deposits, along with cultural material. While only two trenches were initially planned, so many people wanted to participate that an additional trench had to be opened.

One of the most intriguing discoveries was a perfectly preserved, stone-lined hearth which showed signs of heating, but did not contain any ash. This suggests that it had been cleaned out – possibly ready for re-use. Other exciting finds were a hammer stone and striking stones. A pig tooth- initially thought to be an eagle’s talon - was also discovered, which, interestingly, are usually only found in prehistoric sites of high status or wealth. The ORCA team believe that this combination of evidence makes it likely that this area was used for domestic use – possibly the remains of a ‘wag’, or, even more excitingly, a broch.

Pete Higgins, Senior Project Manager for ORCA said, ‘It is incredibly exciting to be involved with the team from Caithness Broch Project and local people investigating this site, especially as this is the first time that it has been excavated. This is the first stages of a project which aims to investigate the wider prehistoric landscape of this area of northern Scotland and ultimately help provide the community with the tools to boost tourism in the area.’

Kenneth McElroy of Caithness Broch Project remarked: The dig was a really exciting community event - I was especially pleased to see that for many of the volunteers this was their first experience of an archaeological dig. It was a superb few days and we'd love to come back and try and find out a bit more about the site!"


At the dig

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